Post-Interview Syndrome, Deliberate Distractions and Pushing the Fast-Forward Button

Posted by on Feb 7, 2020 in Productivity, Updates, Work | No Comments
Post-Interview Syndrome, Deliberate Distractions and Pushing the Fast-Forward Button

His first movement after the shock had been to work in his loom; and he went on with this unremittingly, never asking himself why, now he was come to Raveloe, he worked far on into the night to finish the tale of Mrs. Osgood’s table-linen sooner than she expected — without contemplating beforehand the money she would put into his hand for the work. He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man’s work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life.

George Eliot, Silas Marner

Yesterday I had a job interview. My first real face-to-face job interview in seventeen years, in fact.

I think it went pretty well. I’d go so far as to say that it went about as well as could be expected, given my lack of recent practice. Nevertheless, I was reassured to find, when I just Googled it, that plenty of other people have independently come up with the description “Post-Interview Syndrome” to describe my last twenty-four hours. You know, the bit where you focus on every goofy thing you said, or that moment when you froze like a rabbit in the headlights of an unexpected question, or the thing where you jerk bolt-upright out of bed the morning after, saying, “Oh! That’s the answer they were looking for…”

Yeah, that. Anyway. Here’s my prescription for Post-Interview Syndrome:

Time heals all wounds. Especially the kind of light psychic injury you’re likely to suffer in a job interview, anyway. It’s even possible that in a week’s time you’ll be laughing about your ineptitude with your new colleagues, your interviewer among them, which should help.

Therefore, my first recommendation is to fast forward. I’m not necessarily in favour of zipping through life distracted, but sometimes you just need to pass through the time where your brain is waving foolish and unhelpful thoughts at you until you can get a little distance and perspective.

You know what distracts you, right? And probably you enjoy it a little too much and feel guilty about watching that particular pabulum on the telly or playing that computer game or working on that labour-of-love side project. Or maybe even doing them all at once.

In this instance, give yourself a break and distract away. Personally, I’ve been playing Carcassone with friends, watching episodes of Shakespeare and Hathaway, playing Threes on my phone, listening to Roderick on the Line, doing the Times crossword, writing an adventure game in Python and reading Silas Marner, which came up with a serendipitous quote very quickly.

Oh, and blogging, of course. Which is another bit of advice: writing stuff down helps. Whether it’s a sensible de-brief where you go through the unexpected questions and make sure you’ve got an answer ready for next time, or it’s just stream-of-consciousness babble about all the things you got wrong, writing stuff down helps. Expressive writing of any sort eases anxiety more than kicking it around, over and over, in your brain. I think putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) externalises the worry: putting it on a page gets it out of your head, to some degree.

I’ve already got some of the babble out in my morning pages today. Here I’m hopefully giving my future self (and maybe someone else who needs it) my advice for coping during the anxious post-interview moments themselves. Later on, I’ll probably be ready to make a little note-to-self1 of more practical and specific advice on what to bone up on and which answers to prepare more for in the next interview.

And that’s my final piece of advice: don’t leave it seventeen years. Even if you hate interviews, you’ll be better at them and hate them less if you get a bit of practice in. (But I might just play another game of Threes and work a bit more on Act I of that adventure game before I call the job agency…)

  1. I’m using Notion for that sort of thing these days []
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